Top 10 Patterns for Spring in Southwest Montana

Written by: John Way, The Tackle Shop

Guide “Dirty” Mike Elliott shows off a sweet spring Madison River rainbow.
Photo courtesy The Tackle Shop

Spring in Southwest Montana can be special time. The rivers are awakening, and the fish are hungry for the first significant food of the year. Also, it is a great time to fish, as most of the busy tourist anglers are still home and you are left with large stretches of river to yourself. Our guides absolutely love this time of year and get in most of their personal fishing during the spring. You need to be prepared, so here is a list of the bugs that absolutely need to be in your box:

[Click the name of each fly to be taken to a place to buy, a recipe, or a video.]

1. Brown Pat’s Rubber Legs (sizes 4-10)
This is the do-it-all stonefly nymph imitation. Make sure it’s in your box, and fish it each and every day.

2. San Juan Worm (sizes 10 & 12)
No matter what you think about them, these just work. Carry them in pink and red, and fish them alone or as a dropper behind a nymph.

3. Copper John (Red) (sizes 12-16)
This is the perfect searching nymph pattern. When things get tough, I always tie on a red Copper John, and it almost always produces.

4. Copper John (Copper) (size 10)
I like fishing these in a size 10 during the spring. It is super heavy, looks great, and is my secret spring nymph. I know you’re not accustomed to seeing this fly so large, but give it a try.

5. Purple Haze (sizes 10 & 16)
This is the perfect do-anything adult may fly. I am not sure why the purple color fishes so much better than more traditional colors, but it does. It’s my first choice for a BWO, drake, or March brown.

6. Olive Chubby Chernobyl (size 12)
The Chubby Chernobyl is a great Skwala imitation that floats well, and you can see it in rough water. I like it with an olive body and a chocolate-colored foam wing.

7. Hi Vis Para Midge (sizes 16-20)
You will frequently encounter fish feeding on midges during the spring. I like this pattern because it is easy to see and floats well, and the peacock body also attracts fish .

8. Sparkle Minnow Sculpin (sizes 4 & 6)
These Sparkle Minnows came on the scene a few years ago and really changed streamer fishing. Fish it slow and deep, stripped fast or twitched.

9. Beadhead CDC Prince Nymph (sizes 12-16)
Like a Prince Nymph, only better with the tuft of CDC, this works great as an emerger for Mother’s Day caddis or as a general searching pattern. I think the CDC holds a tiny air bubble, making the entire fly more visible and realistic to the fish.

10. Peacock-body Elk-Hair Caddis (sizes 12-16)
In Southwest Montana, the Mother’s Day caddis hatch is the stuff of legend. This pattern, tied with bleached elk wing, realistically imitates the adult, and it’s easy to see in rough water.

John Way owns and operates The Tackle Shop in Ennis, Montana.

2 thoughts on “Top 10 Patterns for Spring in Southwest Montana”

  1. Pingback: Tippets: Top Spring Fly Patterns, Headlamp Review, Feast & Famine | MidCurrent
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